“An MBA is a perfect opportunity to start a company,” says Chang Li, a serial entrepreneur and MBA student at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
He’s just launched PeerLoop, an educational technology – edtech - tool which could revolutionize the experience of MBA students at business school.
Through PeerLoop, MBAs can solicit and provide continuous feedback on each other’s performance. The aim: to boost collaborative learning and bring MBA cohorts even closer together.
Already, MBA students are using the platform. UBC Sauder’s professors are on board. And Chang is in talks over trialing PeerLoop at the school. He wants to target business schools and universities first, before taking PeerLoop into the corporate world.
Originally from China, Chang has never been a proper employee. His entrepreneurial ventures range from clothing companies to chemicals and technology startups. On the entrepreneurship track of the 16-month UBC Sauder MBA, he met PeerLoop co-founder Mark Chen.
At UBC Sauder, he benefited from a startup incubation space and learnt from a whole host of professors, mentors and entrepreneurs. Now, he wants MBA students to learn better from each other as well.
How did the idea to start PeerLoop come about?
I was inspired by my beliefs in education and the learning experience I went through during my MBA.
At UBC Sauder, I met my co-founder Mark Chen. We found that we both liked learning from people around us. We realized that there was a need for a platform to help MBA students learn from each other more effectively and build better relationships.
It’s not that the school didn’t already do a great job. But we felt that there were improvements that we could provide.
What can it bring to the full-time MBA experience?
If students start using PeerLoop from day one of their MBA, it will really enhance peer learning.
Business schools already take peer learning very seriously. In recent years, companies like McKinsey and Google have implemented peer feedback systems as well.
Our long-term goal is to build this into a professional development and career service; to help MBA students find jobs and build up their resumes. We would love to push our platform from university to university and eventually capture the corporate market.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at UBC Sauder?
Vancouver is considered a high-tech city in Canada. The environment and the culture supports entrepreneurship. Vancouver is close to the West Coast of the US. It has a lot of startups, VC firms, and a lot of young people as well.
I originally moved here to gain experience in education and technology. With an MBA, I wanted to learn more skills, gain more knowledge, and, most of all, increase my network, to get to know more business professionals and mentors in Vancouver.
UBC Sauder is an international school with a beautiful campus. I looked through its roster of professors and I was really impressed; a lot of them had had very high-level jobs in the past.
How have you been supported by the school?
At UBC, an entire department - entrepreneurship@UBC - is designed to help students bring a business idea to market. We developed a business plan and a minimum viable product over our summer internships. And we had access to professors, mentors and resources for free.
From the MBA, I learnt a systematic way of looking at things. I learnt about the lean startup model, about how to do market research more effectively and how to talk to customers.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Time is limited. If you want to start a business while you’re a student, you have to start right away.
You should talk to professors and also reach out to the wider community outside the school. As an MBA student people love to talk to you. It’s always easier to do a customer survey or reach out different people while you’re an MBA.
Make sure you talk to customers first before designing a product. Once you have an idea, make the minimum prototype, show it to people, and get feedback on it before you put any real money in.